I have something new to add to my ever-growing list of geeky things authors do.
Yesterday I went to Barnes & Noble. I browsed the new releases and the clearance table, pretending to have a mission beyond what was really drawing me to the other side of the store.
I wanted to see where my books will sit.
I located the spot on the romance aisle where “Tawna Fenske” falls between “Christine Feehan” and “Amy J. Fetzer.” I dusted the shelf and caressed it lovingly, drawing raised eyebrows from two bookstore patrons and a leer from the greasy-haired guy in velour pants.
Then I went exploring.
When my amazing agent first mentioned the possibility Sourcebooks might publish my books, I did a little dance. Then I put my clothes back on and drove to the bookstore where I went searching for Sourcebooks titles.
What excited me that day is the same thing that excited me yesterday, which is this:
Those spiffy little spots on the fancy displays don’t happen by accident. I’ve always known this, but just to confirm, I grabbed a Barnes and Noble employee. He seemed alarmed by both the grabbing and the fact that I was photographing books instead of reading them, but was kind enough to answer my questions.
“How do you decide which books go on these displays instead of just putting them on the regular shelves?” I asked.
Eyeing my hand on his sleeve, he shrugged. “Those decisions are made at the corporate level in New York.”
“It’s not random?”
He laughed. “No.”
“So you’re saying publishers pay you guys to put certain books in the pimp spots?”
“Well, I didn’t actually say pimp, but yeah – pretty much.”
For a debut author like me, it’s exciting to know I’m in the hands of a publisher willing to shell out bucks for primo placement. Sourcebooks publishes only a fraction of the romance titles some of the bigger houses crank out each month, but from what I’ve seen, they pour a lot into promoting the books they do release.
While I’ve been channeling all my personal marketing efforts into blogs and Twitter and Facebook, I know there’s a huge segment of the book buying public I can’t possibly touch this way (though if touching them another way is the key to selling books, I’m game).
A lot of readers – particularly romance readers – make book buying decisions based on what catches their eye as they’re strolling the store. A primo spot on the shelves might just make a difference in whether someone’s willing to take a chance on a new author like me or skip right past me in favor of picking up a new aphrodisiac cookbook.
How does book placement impact your book buying decisions? Are you a bookstore browser who grabs things that catch your eye, or do you stay focused on whatever you set out to find in the first place? Please share, I’m really curious.
I’m also giving serious thought to that whole touching thing. Is groping customers a legitimate way for an author to market her books? If so, I'm willing to give it a shot.